At Studio 88 our goal is to have all our students receive classically based training & technique while incorporating popular, fun music as well. All of our instructors have university level training in their instrument.

Rita Merlo- Piano

Classically trained yet clued into the music of today, Rita (maiden name Rita Merlo) conducts lessons based on formal technique while being well acquainted with pop repertoire. Rita began playing piano at age six, studying with Akiko Hasunuma. She enjoyed many years of success in Certificate of Merit, National Guild, and won numerous awards in competitions such as Southwestern Youth Music Festival, Lighthouse,and Rotary Club. Rita attended University of California, Irvine, studying under the tutelage of Dr. Lorna Griffitt. While at UC Irvine, Rita was awarded with several scholarships such as Vacca & McDade, Medici, Winifried Smith, and Rawlins Scholarships. Rita attended the Schlern International Music Festival in the summer of 2007, where she had a rigorous performance schedule while studying under well acclaimed musicians from around the world.

Rita has had her private piano studio since 2007 and is an active member of Music Teacher’s Association of California. For eight years, Rita performed as a staff musician for UC Irvine’s Dance Department, which has received world-wide recognition for their renowned faculty and and performances. In 2015, Rita joined the Dance Department at Chapman University as a staff musician. She accompanies Ballet and Modern classes and performances, where she works with dancers by improvising and creating music that supports dancers both rhythmically and  melodically. She has also worked with many important figures in Dance, such as Alonzo King of Lines Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and members of the Moscow, Kirov and Joffrey Ballet.

As a dedicated piano instructor, Rita Merlo uses her classical technique, improvisational skills, and knowledge of music genres to help her students reach their maximum potential in music. Her students have won awards at the Composers Today State Festival, MTACOCC Contemporary Festival, received Branch Honors for Certificate of Merit, Senior Medallion, and more.

To listen to Rita’s original compositions, please click here: https://soundcloud.com/ritabook16


Laura Rowe- Piano 

Laura Rowe began piano training in 1998 with Akiko Hasunuma, continuing classical lessons with Maria Eszerova at UC Santa Cruz. Laura graduated from from UC Santa Cruz’s music program with honors. As well as involvement in musical theatre, composing for cabarets, and accompanying musicals, Laura completed National Guild as well as Certificate of Merit, alongside winning numerous awards in competitions such as Bach Festival, Southwestern Youth Music Festival, and MTAC Branch Honors. She has also graciously received scholarships from several organizations including Eltinge Music, Wagner Family Music Scholar, and Kvetschmer Scholarship Award. Laura was also involved in the Arts Bridge Program (2014), teaching kindergarten students at Anne Soldo Elementary musical theory, history, and the art of engaging in song and dance. Aside from classical training and playing, Laura has musical involvement in popular and electronic forms of music and also enjoys engaging voice in these projects. Laura has been a private piano instructor since 2011.

To listen to Laura’s original compositions, please click here: https://soundcloud.com/meilur



Tyler Plemons- Voice 

Tyler Plemons is a classically trained tenor who enjoys various styles and genres of music. He grew up in the Foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, where he started singing in churches at the age of ten. As he pursued singing, Tyler attended Lee University where he earned a Bachelor’s of Music degree in Vocal Performance and studied voice with the incomparable Tony Deaton. While at Lee University, Tyler performed in various opera productions including: Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado and The Gondoliers, Offenbach’s Isle of Tulipatan, Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Percell’s Dido and Aeneas. He was also a semi-finalist in the National Association for Teacher of Students Mid-South (NATS) competition from 2010 to 2015, as well as being a 2014 and 2015 Lee University Honors Recital recipient. Tyler has an equal love for musical theater being in shows such as Kiss me Kate, Anything Goes, and Curtains.

With a vast knowledge of vocal technique, Tyler is excited to impart his singing and performance experience to any student with a passion and goal to further their musical skill set.


Michelle Peng- Piano

Michelle Peng won the 2016 concerto competition at UCI, and performed Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major with UCI Symphony at Barclay Theatre in Mar 2016. She has also been invited to perform the “Green Island Serenade” Concerto – for solo piano and symphonic band at Chiayi City International Band Festival. 

Michelle is passionate about the music. After receiving a Master of Business Administration in Taiwan, Michelle went on to receive her bachelor of piano performance at UC, Irvine. Her piano performing experiences include piano concerti, solo and chamber music. Besides performing Concerti, Michelle was chosen to be the solo pianist for 2017 UCI Music Showcase Concert at the Barclay Theatre. She was also invited to have solo recitals by local Philharmonic Societies, such as Town and Country Committee and Lido Isle Committee. She also performs in Senior Communities, such as Regents Point and Atria Woodbridge. She is also active as a collaborative pianist in chamber ensembles.

Her major piano teachers have included Dr. Lorna Griffitt at UC, Irvine, Dr. Janice Park at Irvine Valley College and Chia-Siang Lin in Taiwan. She received the Robert and Marjorie Rawlins Scholarship, and has performed in the master classes for Nelita True, Trio Celeste and Theresa Kim.  

In addition to her life as a pianist, she shows considerable ability as an accomplished clarinetist. She has performed for numerous venues with symphonic bands for more than 10 years.

Michelle teaches piano and clarinet to students of all ages, levels, interests and goals. She is committed to a life-long dedication to music. 

John Gilmour- Piano

Pianist John Gilmour is quickly establishing himself as a committed and sensitive musical collaborator. He regularly performs with singers, instrumentalists, and choral ensembles in Southern California and beyond. He currently serves as a Staff Accompanist for the Music Department at Scripps College. As an educator, John was a founding staff member of Sister Cities Girlchoir, the tuition-free choral academy based in Philadelphia, PA. He enjoys teaching piano to students of all ages.

His interest in vocal accompaniment has taken him to festivals such as the Source Song Festival and the Vancouver International Song Institute, where he was among a select group of pianists chosen to study the songs of Schubert with the renowned pianist and scholar, Graham Johnson. He has played in masterclasses with pianists Martin Katz, Nelita True, Arlene Shrut and Olivier Godin. John recently completed his master’s degree in collaborative piano at the University of California, Irvine, where he was a fellowship student of Nina Scolnik. He is a graduate of Temple University.

Janice Hsu- Piano

Janice began playing piano at age three. Her two passions are music and teaching. She enjoyed many years of success in Certificate of Merit, placed first in MTAC Baroque, Classical, and Romantic festivals, and won the MTAC Scholarship Competition and the Southern California Junior Bach Festival. Janice played collaboratively as an OC Junior Chamber Musician, in many chamber settings, for solo vocalists, church choir productions, weddings, and for Choirs@UCI.

Janice is currently completing her fourth year at the University of California, Irvine, studying piano under the tutelage of Dr. Lorna Griffitt. Janice has performed in master classes for Nelita True, Trio Celeste, and Roberto Cani. Outside of playing piano, Janice’s passion for music led her to sing in many choirs, including the Northwood Chamber Singers and Unaccompanied Minors, and participate in choir festivals. She also plays keyboard, guitar, and bass guitar.

Janice’s passion for teaching led her to share her love of music by teaching piano privately and in group settings. She has tutored in math and computer science, and taught at bible camps and summer and after-school programs for hearing-impaired students. In teaching piano, Janice strives to build a healthy student-teacher relationship and guide her students to work hard and enjoy making beautiful music as much as she does.

To listen to Janice’s original compositions, please click here: https://soundcloud.com/janicehsu

Sara Boyd- Piano

Sara Boyd aims to foster a natural love of music in her students, by creating a teaching environment that balances nurturing encouragement with detailed instruction. Sara tailors her approach to fit the personalized needs of each student, with a special attention to health and wellness at the instrument. Sara believes that piano can cultivate students’ awareness and engagement with their emotional and intellectual selves. She strives to leave students with an invaluable skill set that is directly transferable to life outside of the lesson.

Sara received her Bachelor of Music in piano performance from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, where she studied piano and pedagogy under nationally recognized instructors Phyllis Lehrer and Ingrid Clarfield. During her time at Westminster Choir College, Sara was awarded first prize in the Westminster Choir College Piano Competition (2014) and the New Jersey Music Teachers Association Young Artists Piano Competition (2015). Prior to this, Sara placed first in the University of Rhode Island’s “Piano Extravaganza” competition (2009). In addition, Sara has performed internationally at the Orfeo Music Festival in Italy (2011), and was accepted to the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina (2015). Sara is currently finalizing her Master of Fine Arts in piano performance under Nina Scolnik at the University of California, Irvine, where she also works as a departmental teaching assistant, accompanying undergraduates and guiding class piano.  


5 thoughts on “Our Teachers

  1. Miss Rita is the BEST piano teacher!
    We wish the best for you in this new chapter of your career.
    Katie and Michele Green

  2. Hi Studio 88,
    You met my daughter “Shana” and suggested we choose an instructor from your website. Shana is 10 and has been studying 2 years. Available on Mondays and Wednesday after 3:30 PM.
    Is Sally Emilia available? Thank you, Gary saxking49@aol.com

  3. I have checked your website and i’ve found some duplicate content,
    that’s why you don’t rank high in google’s search results,
    but there is a tool that can help you to create 100% unique content, search for; Boorfe’s
    tips unlimited content

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s